The Arctic and the politics of the Earth. Prioritizing indigenous representations of spatial power: the case of the Sahtu Dene, Canada

Regions: Sahtu Settlement Area

Tags: social sciences, resource management

Principal Investigator: Perombelon, Brice B.P (2)
Licence Number: 15550
Organization: School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford
Licenced Year(s): 2014
Issued: Oct 17, 2014
Project Team: brice perombelon (research supervisor / project leader, University of Oxford, U.K)

Objective(s): To provide an alternative way to understand how human societies interact socially and politically with the territory on which they live.

Project Description: The objectives of this research are:
To provide an alternative way to understand how human societies interact socially and politically with the territory on which they live. This is about environmental (resources such as water, land, game, trees, minerals, oil and gas) as well as cultural (belief-systems and social rules and rites) and political (how does leadership work?, who is the most important group in the community?) issues.
In the context of the land claims, the Principal Investigator (PI) hopes to provide participatory up-to-date maps of the way members of the community use the land and other resources. These maps are meant to be entirely for the benefit of the community. The PI will design and create a system that can be updated and re-used from within the community itself (training will be provided). These maps can be used to empower any future claims for compensation or benefits if any of these resources are to be exploited in the future.

This research is qualitative and will involve direct interaction with members of the communities. Three different methods will be used:
1-Interviews: The PI will interview 30 to 40 adult members of the community (with an equal number of women (15) and men (15) and of elders (60+) (10), adults (10) and young adults (18-25) (10). Each interview will be open-ended and last a minimum of 60 minutes. They will be audio-recorded, with the consent of the interviewee. The questions will focus on the interviewee's interaction with the land, water, trees and other resources but also on his/her perception of recent changes occurring in the region (increase in resource exploration/exploitation activities, and building of new transportation infrastructure). Each interview will start with warming up questions and will then follow with questions on the above-mentioned topics. The PI will also re-interview the same participant several times to be sure to understand their responses.

2-Ethnography: The PI will stay in the community for a long period. By doing so, the PI hopes that the community members will familiarize themselves with him, that they will be able to trust him and know about the work and the reason his presence. Ethnography is also about observing and participating in activities that take place within the community. In this case, The PI hopes to observe, learn about and participate in activities that the community undertakes and that are related to the land (fishing, hunting, trapping, walking, building new infrastructure or even working on the land). The PI also hopes to learn about the cultural, spiritual and social meaning of these activities. As such, another aspect of an ethnographic study like this one is to learn about the language and beliefs of the selected community. This will probably require the PI to find someone to teach about these aspects. As part of this ethnographic work, the PI will take written notes on what is observed and participate as well.

3-The use of GPS:
A GPS recording device will be carried. The PI will ask those individuals that have an active interaction with the land (they trap, hunt or fish or work/walk on the land for any other reasons) if he can follow them with this device so that their movements on the land and in and around the community can be recorded. This will help develop and design an interactive system containing maps of the places, activities and areas that are being currently used by members of the community.

The PI will then combine, analyze and report on the data collected via these three methods.

Participants will not benefit directly from taking part in this study. However, through direct participation of the community’s stakeholders (by providing their input), the hopes are that this study will help:
-Improve the community’s involvement in the management of land and resources and favor long-term sustainable development in the area as well as give the community’s leadership some tools to support any future claims for full control over the exploitation of natural resources. One way of doing this is through the use of GPS recordings since it will show how the land surrounding the community is practiced, used and known by its members.?
-suggest ways to better the consultation processes that are conducted as part of resources development activities - specifically when it comes to the preservation of culturally or environmentally important features of the landscape or particular places, and
-Propose the development of new strategies to capitalize on traditional knowledge, for example with search and rescue activities, or the building of infrastructure adapted to the conditions of the High North.

As such, this study may contribute to developing economic as well as political and social opportunities for the community involved.

The PI will provide an electronic copy of any paper/report that will be based on this research. The PI will also provide a short summary of the results obtained by email. Lastly, the PI will make himself available for any presentation, meetings or training that may be requested by members of the community during or after the completion of my fieldwork period.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from October 17, 2014 to December 31, 2014.